Practice Relating to Rule 129. The Act of Displacement
Section A. Forced displacement
France’s LOAC Summary Note (1992) provides that “deportation or illegal transfer of population” constitutes a grave breach, which is a war crime.
France’s LOAC Teaching Note (2000) provides that “illegal transfer of the population” constitutes a grave breach, which is a war crime.
France’s LOAC Manual (2001) states: “The law of armed conflict prohibits forced displacement of populations.”
France’s Penal Code (1992) punishes deportation as a crime against humanity.
France’s Penal Code (1992), as amended in 2010, states in its section on war crimes related to international armed conflict: “Participating in … the deportation or transfer of all or part of the population of the occupied territory, within or outside this territory, is punishable by life imprisonment.”
In its section on war crimes related to non-international armed conflict, the Penal Code also states: “Unless the security of the civilians or imperative military reasons so demand, ordering the displacement of the civilian population for reasons related to the conflict is punishable by life imprisonment.”
In its judgment in the Roechling case
in 1948, the General Tribunal at Rastadt (French Zone of Occupation in Germany) found the principal accused, Hermann Roechling, the proprietor and active head of an industrial and commercial trust, guilty of war crimes for having participated in a plan of deportation to forced labour of civilian inhabitants of occupied territories and prisoners of war, in the course of which they were ill-treated and killed. The Court found that the participation of the accused in the programme of forced labour rendered him guilty of the offence of deportation of civilians and prisoners of war.
The Report on the Practice of France states that France especially censures the forcible displacement or deportation of the civilian population, when carried out in both international and non-international armed conflicts. It has even stated that it is its moral duty to react to protect displaced persons. France also clearly opposes the expulsion measures taken against the inhabitants of the territories occupied by Israel and considers them as contrary to the 1949 Geneva Convention IV. Representatives of France have described such measures as being of “exceptional gravity”.